07-25_Peng Nisbett - SCIENCE WATCH Culture Dialectics and Reasoning About Contradiction Kaiping Peng Richard E Nisbett Chinese ways of dealing with

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SCIENCE WATCH Culture, Dialectics, and Reasoning About Contradiction Kaiping Peng Richard E. Nisbett University of California, Berkeley University of Michigan Chinese ways of dealing with seeming contradictions result in a dialectical or compromise approach retaining basic elements of opposing perspectives by seeking a "middle way." On the other hand, European-American ways, de- riving from a lay version of Aristotelian logic, result in a differentiation model that polarizes contradictory perspec- tives in an effort to determine which fact or position is correct. Five empirical studies showed that dialectical thinking is a form of folk wisdom in Chinese culture: Chinese participants preferred dialectical proverbs con- taining seeming contradictions more than did American participants. Chinese participants also preferred dialecti- cal resolutions to social conflicts and preferred dialectical arguments over classical Western logical arguments. Fur- thermore, when 2 apparently contradictory propositions were presented, American participants polarized their views, and Chinese participants were moderately accepting of both propositions. Origins of these cultural differences and their implications for human reasoning in general are discussed. c onsider the following statements about recent sci- entific discoveries: Statement A. Two mathematicians have discovered that the activities of a butterfly in Beijing, China, noticeably affect the temperature in the San Francisco Bay Area. Statement B. Two meteorologists have found that the activities of a local butterfly in the San Francisco Bay Area have nothing to do with temperature changes in the same San Francisco Bay Area. What would be your intuitive reaction to these state- ments? Do you see an implicit contradiction between the two pieces of information? What strategy would you use to deal with such contradictions? What is the rationale for using such a strategy? Does your cultural background af- fect your reasoning and judgments about contradiction? If so, how? Theoretically, there are four possible psychological responses to apparent contradiction. The first, and perhaps easiest, is not to deal with contradiction at all or to pretend that there is no contradiction, a psychological stance that could be labeled denial. A second approach is to distrust or discount both pieces of information because they seem to contradict each other, a stance that could be called dis- counting. However, both of these stances can be counter- normative because the full set of information might have important implications for behavior. A third response involves comparing both items of information, then deciding that one is right and the other is wrong. Psychologists have found that in group decision making, people exposed to opposing propositions often increase their preference for the proposition they were inclined to believe initially and decrease their prefer- ence for the less favored proposition (for reviews, see Isenberg, 1986; Kaplan, 1987). Psychologists have also
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This note was uploaded on 08/15/2011 for the course PSYCH 166AC taught by Professor Peng during the Summer '11 term at University of California, Berkeley.

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07-25_Peng Nisbett - SCIENCE WATCH Culture Dialectics and Reasoning About Contradiction Kaiping Peng Richard E Nisbett Chinese ways of dealing with

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